Anti-Abuse Group: Letter 'a Day Late, a Dollar Short'

By Michael Hasch
Pittsburgh Tribune [Pittsburgh]
June 9, 2004

A support group for victims of sexual abuse by clergy has blasted the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh for being "a day late, a dollar short" in attempts to find and help Quigley High School students who may have been abused.

The diocese responded by saying allegations made Tuesday by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests are "inaccurate and irresponsible" and accused the organization of appearing "more interested in grandstanding and public displays" than in working with the church.

Bishop Donald W. Wuerl sent a letter to 1,100 people who attended the Beaver County school when the Rev. John Hoehl was headmaster.

Hoehl is one of four priests accused of sexual molestation in a lawsuit filed against the diocese in January. Hoehl, who left the ministry in 1988, and the other priests are not defendants because the statute of limitations has expired.

Wuerl's letter invited possible victims to contact the diocese for assistance.

"We can only conclude that (Wuerl's) persistent unwillingness to urge victims to contact law enforcement is a calculated step to keep abuse secret," said David Clohessy, the national director of SNAP.

"As you well know, Bishop Wuerl, the sexual abuse of children is a crime. It should be treated as a crime. It should be reported to the proper civil authorities," SNAP's letter states.

"Your refusal to inform victims about the need for and availability of independent therapy, and of confidential help through support groups, leads us to wonder if your primary concern is your image, not the well-being of the wounded."

The diocese said Wuerl's letter "was a personal appeal expressing the bishop's care, support and concern" and was not released publicly until the news media became aware of it.

According to the diocese:

"The long-standing public policy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh urges all victims to contact civil authorities. It also states that the diocese will take allegations to the appropriate district attorneys."

The diocese "has provided for independent, private counseling for many people and will continue to do so. ... The diocese believes that the church has an indispensable role in the healing process and cannot turn its back on the victims."

Michael Hasch can be reached at or (412) 320-7820.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.